December 1st marks the annual observation of World AIDS Day.  HIV/AIDS has been one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history and has prompted government and civil society to pledge support and universal access to care.  Yet, despite the pledges and the considerable treatment achievements made over the last few years, few see seniors as a group that is also at risk to the disease. As a result, seniors are often forgotten in the world-wide response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In comparison to younger patients, older people are more likely to have HIV diagnosed late and are also less likely to have undergone counseling and testing than younger age groups.  Furthermore, little is known about the prevalence and impact of HIV/AIDS on patients over 50, which means that effective programs are difficult to design.  It is also important to note that seniors do not suffer from HIV/AIDS simply as patients.  According to UNAIDS “Approximately 1.6 million older people are caring for the estimated 12 million children who have lost one or both parents to HIV or AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS/WHO 2008).”  Seniors thus play an important role in caring for the children of those that have died to the disease.  Noting that seniors are already among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in many societies, steps must be undertaken to ensure that seniors have the necessary means to care for themselves their grandchildren.

IAHSA hopes that this World AIDS Day can be taken as a step to increase awareness of the impact of the disease on older populations.  Share with us your stories of the impact of HIV/AIDS on older people in your country.

For more information:

HelpAge International


World AIDS Day UK